This Day in White Sox History: Stu Holcomb blows up the team

This Day in White Sox History: Stu Holcomb blows up the team
Stu Holcomb (Chicago White Sox)

July 27, 1951 - The Sox trailed the Yankees 3-2 when the game was delayed 25 minutes by rain. When play resumed, the Sox scored twice more to lead 4-3. Yankee manager Casey Stengel began stalling hoping for more rain. He got his wish and the game was called, reverting back to a 3-1 Yankees win. That second rain delay lasted 10 minutes! The Sox protested the decision by umpire Hank Soar with the league office, to no avail.

July 27, 1973 - Sox vice president Stu Holcomb “retired” under pressure after his hard line approach on salaries destroyed the 1973 White Sox. When players wouldn’t come to terms with his initial offer, Holcomb ordered, then player personnel director Roland Hemond, to release them. Not try to compromise with them or try to trade them to get something back... but release them.

The Sox gave away Jay Johnstone, Ed Spiezio, Mike Andrews and Rick Reichardt. When Holcomb ordered Hemond to release 21 game winner Stan BahnsenHemond and manager Chuck Tanner went to owner John AllynHemond and Tanner threatened to quit if something wasn’t done. Allyn sided with the duo and Holcomb was history bringing some stability to the front office although the damage was already done. Then when the Sox would get hit by an epidemic of injuries they had little available depth to try to counteract it.

Hemond and others told me about this situation in various interviews over the years. Here's what Roland had to say about it first off.

Stu wanted the responsibility of negotiating the player’s contracts. This led to the controversies that evolved because he ordered me to release players like Jay JohnstoneEd Spiezio and Mike Andrews when they wouldn’t sign the contracts he offered them in spring training.”

Stu received the unsigned contracts of Rick Reichardt and Stan BahnsenReichardt asked for his release during the season and Stu granted it. When he wanted to do the same thing with Bahnsen, I contested it. Our ranks were being depleted with getting nothing in return. I went to the owner, John Allyn, and said there was no use my continuing to work under such circumstances. Stu decided to retire and I remained with the organization.” 

Mike Andrews remembered things this way.

"The problem was general manager Stu Holcomb. He was supposed to run the owner’s soccer team but when that folded they had to find something for him and made him the GM. He didn’t handle things well at all. I know Stan Bahnsen said he wasn’t going to pitch unless he got a new contract. He won 21 games in 1972 so the Sox finally agreed with what he wanted. Rick Reichardt was flat waived. I was talking with the Sox about a new deal. The Sox weren’t going to cut my salary and we were almost ready to sign it when Holcomb went to the papers and said something like 

'Andrews obviously hasn’t lived up to what we thought we were going to be getting.’ I was having problems especially with my throwing. I wasn’t playing much and it was a bad situation. I went to Chuck Tanner and said ‘this isn’t good, can I just be released?.’ Chuck said to me, ‘Mike I don’t blame you, let me see what I can do.’Chuck was able to get me released and I wound up signing with Oakland."

Stan Bahnsen meanwhile told me that things got very personal between him and Holcomb.

“When I was traded to the Sox I went to see Stu about a new contract and we talked and he said that if in 1972 I had a good year, if the team had a good year and if the team was drawing, that he’d give me what I asked for. Well in 1972 all of those things happened and in September I was sitting in the dugout at Comiskey Park when Stu walked by, sat down and we started talking. I mentioned to him the conversation we had and asked if he remembered it. Stu said he didn’t. Then he added, ‘well I don’t think you’re having that good of a season…’ I remember that night I beat the Angels, I think it was a shutout and I was mad just thinking about what he said to me. 

“So that winter when the Sox offer came, I never signed it. They only offered me five thousand dollars more after I won 21 games.”

“So in 1973 I was off to another pretty good start… then that summer, it was in June I think, my dad had a stroke and I had to leave the club to go back to Omaha. I was able to get there before he passed away. So I rejoin the team and Stu wants to see me. I meet with him and he offers the same five thousand dollar raise that he did over the winter. I think the timing was deliberate, that Stu was trying to take advantage of the difficult time I had just been through. I didn’t sign it and walked out.” 

“That was it for me as far as I was concerned. I met with Chuck Tanner and Roland Hemond and said, ‘that’s it, I quit. It’s nothing against you guys but I’ve had it with him.’ I drove home… my wife was in Chicago at the time and told her what happened, and naturally she was concerned. She asked what was I going to do and I said I didn’t care, they could trade me. Well I don’t know what happened after I left my meeting with Chuck andRoland but the next day I got a call and the Sox offered me a deal for what I originally asked for. So I signed it.”

“Nobody on the team respected Stu Holcomb. He wasn’t a baseball guy. I remember one time I was in arbitration and he said ‘well you won five games against Texas.’ I answered ‘last I looked Texas was in the American League.”  

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  • Additional item for June 27:

    July 27, 2014 - Former White Sox star Frank Thomas, the “Big Hurt” was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

    Thomas played 16 years with the Sox and holds every major hitting record in team history. He was the American League MVP in back to back years, 1993 and 1994 and finished in the top ten in that voting nine other times. He was the Comeback Player of the Year in 2000 and helped the Sox on their way to winning the 2005 World Series before getting injured in mid season. He received almost 84 per cent of the vote becoming the first White Sox player inducted on the first ballot.

  • The bottom line is that Stu was hired to do a job! John Allyn really couldn't afford to own a baseball team but brought it from his brother who wanted to move the team to St Petersburg. Stu's marching orders were to save money and keep the team afloat. What this article doesn't mention was that Stu was doing his friend (John Allyn) a favor in many ways. Mr. Allyn knew Stu wasn't a baseball guy but had a hard-headed, football mentality that was needed at the time to keep the team in Chicago.

    Never mind the fact that Stu also hired Harry Carey and Nancy Faust. Two pretty good Chicago legacies if you ask me...

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